ABBA pinball | Pinball Brothers | Preview

There are brands whose new machines we never tire of seeing… Brands we cherish because we know we’ll be treated to a quality pinball machine that generally pays tribute to the chosen theme: Spooky Pinball first and foremost, Dutch Pinball too, but also Pinball Brothers! The worthy successors of the late Heighwey Pinball have been demonstrating their rigor, seriousness, passion and closeness to the community for several years now. We are systematically treated to quality machines that evolve over time. And even if the pace of releases is slower than the competition, they’ve already graced us with two fine machines with rather cool licenses, Alien and Queen, without really making any missteps.

And now, over the past few weeks, these little rascals have been announcing the release of their new baby, the ABBA pinball machine, through subtle teasers and trolls for April 1st.

abba banniere

Suffice to say, we weren’t really expecting it. Firstly, because in proportion to the release of Alien, it hasn’t been that long since the Queen came out, and above all, because after a musical pinball, nobody expected… a second musical pinball!

So, whether it’s a stroke of genius or a predicted flop for this European producer’s latest release (and there aren’t that many of them!), we decipher it in this preview!

Here we go again!

ABBA pinball machine: Mama mia…

Well, if musical pinball machines are commonplace, it’s really only Jersey Jack Pinball who recently managed to change the very rock/hard/metal musical style to introduce a slightly more “pop” style with his Elton John pinball machine.

But Pinball Brothers pushes the envelope a little further, this time tackling an even more “pop”, even “disco pop” cult band: Sweden’s ABBA.

abba groupe

If you’re from a generation that’s never heard of ABBA, I can’t help you. For the others, the mere mention of the name should awaken in you the immutable refrains of Money, Money, Money, Dancing Queen or Gimme Gimme Gimme! And to be honest, a band like ABBA isn’t such a bad idea.

For a start, everyone knows them (or almost everyone, but we can’t do anything more for you, as I’ve already told you…), and the music is pretty straightforward. In the midst of all these tracks, you’re bound to find the one you like.

Secondly, the band’s visual universe is made up (a bit like Elton John’s, by the way) of rhinestones and sequins, and visually, this can give our playfield designers ideas, as well as artworks.

And last but not least, it’s a vintage band from the 70s and 80s. Pinball makers don’t create pinball machines about more recent bands, because money is in the pockets of the forties/fifties, not the juniors! And a pinball machine costs a fortune, CQFD!

As a teaser, but not too much so, Pinball Brothers plays with finesse and releases their first video showing the mechanics of what will be the main toy of their future machine. The famous helicopter and its ball lock.

And we can’t help thinking that if this is how it starts, it’s going to be another pretty nugget, this new Pinball Brothers!

As for the rest, the reveal of this ABBA pinball machine is unfortunately still a little shaky. Photos are released on hijacked media before being officially published by the manufacturer, the machine’s video trailer comes out a week after the announcement and, more importantly, after the first streams (!?)… In short, nothing surprises me any more in the marketing of this market, so I’ve come to a very simple postulate: everybody fails. And that’s it.

Nevertheless, year in, year out, ABBA is finally here, and from the outset, it unites as much as it divides…

You are the dancing queeeeeen

Visually, it’s going to be difficult not to dissociate the two versions, since the box artwork differs completely.

The Limited version plays the sober card on the box, and as you know, sobriety and pinball rarely go well together. Pinball is a kitsch hobby, and we pinheads love kitsch and drawings. And here… we’re left a little disappointed with this big white logo and futuristic background, which more or less echoes the triangular design of the “Voulez-vous” album (even if, technically, these are the backgrounds used in their last concert/show). It’s not immodest, but it’s not very warm either.

ABBA pinball - limited version - cabinet - pinball brothers

As for the backglass, it’s pretty well done, and the artist’s touch is realistic and well balanced, without lapsing into photo realism or Rush-style caricature. The 4 members of the group are clearly recognizable: Agnetha, Björn, Frida and Benny.

For the collector’s version, subtitled “Voyage”, the opposite is true. The box artwork is truly sublime and perfectly captures the design and concept of this futuristic musical based on the ABBAtars, the digital reproductions of the singers for their virtual tour in 2022. You either like it or you don’t, but the attention to detail is there and it’s a success overall. The downside is perhaps the backglass, which is a little less fun and austere than its little sister. A matter of taste.

Abba pinball - Voyage version - box - pinball borthers

As far as the playfield is concerned, however, Pinball Brothers has everyone in agreement! It’s beautiful, it’s complete, it’s shimmering and it’s a wonderful tribute to the band! It’s right up there with JJP’s Elton John. We find all the musical elements that made the band so successful: the disco ball, the golden disc, the back panel illuminated with the band’s name and that main toy in the middle that catches the eye: the famous helicopter from the cover of the Arrival album.

ABBA pinball - Playfield - Pinball Brothers

Nevertheless… once switched on, there’s one thing that jumps out. Or rather, it’s not so obvious… the lighshow is a complete mess! Pinball Brothers, you’ve chosen ABBA and, on top of that, the theme of their latest sound and light show.

Why not offer a lightshow worthy of the name? Instead, we’re left with strips of fixed LEDs on the sides, a few RGB LEDs flashing incessantly in the same “on/off” cadence… It’s a real shame, because at first glance, the visuals are splendid, and we were hoping to see the same lighting effects as in a concert. It’s a shame…

Let’s hope this point will be corrected in a future update.

Su-pe-per Trou-pe-per

As we’ve known all too well for years now, musical pinball = good atmosphere, but game mechanics (or at least game principles) are always a little light. Half the time, musical pinball games simply involve getting the various band members to play a tune, or their instruments, or the instruments linked to the tune in question, in short… It’s not all that original. Recently, Stern broke with the genre’s codes with Foo Fighter, deliberately including the band members in a fantastic cartoon-style story. It was fun and it worked (as well as being original).

With this ABBA pinball machine, Pinball Brothers plays the mix card. That of nostalgia for the historic group and the songs we all know, and that of the recent virtual show (scheduled for 2019 but played in 2022, due to the pandemic): ABBA Voyage. With a fantastic adventure scenario. Why not?

ABBA pinball - Playfield - Pinball Brothers

Basically, the aim is to make the band members immortal by creating their own ABBAtars (in reference to the famous 2022 show). To do this, you’ll need to collect the instruments, outfits and souls of the band members, following in their footsteps as they tour the world. In the end, you’ll have to open an inter-dimensional portal to find the medallion of power and wage battle against who knows who, in the hope of seeing the wizard mode. That’s all there is to it!

We certainly appreciate the originality of the scenario.

As for the implementation on the playfield, the few gameplay videos shared, notably during the reveal, give a glimpse of a gameplay mostly located at the bottom of the playfield, with ball trajectories that don’t look so simple and ramps as steep as mounts!

The game appears to be rather demanding, and the configuration of the playfield means that ball circulation is not necessarily ultra-fast. It seems to require excellent control if you hope to progress in the missions.

The ersatz “MagnaGrab/Lock à la Stranger Things” on the left ramp has a striking effect, as does the bead lock in the helicopter (whose pals come to life in some missions, by the way). Two toys that have a “wow” effect.

As for the rest, as in each of our previews. We can’t wait to try it out for real, so we can make up our own minds!

Money, Money, Money

Where? When? How? How much?

There are already two versions available, as mentioned above. And both of them are limited editions, with a rather honest and coherent volume for the current market.

First, the Arrival Limited Edition, produced in a limited edition of 500. With a deposit of $2,000, you’ll get $10,000 at the end.

Then there’s the Voyage Collector Edition, produced in a limited edition of 300. With a deposit of $2,000, it will cost you $11,000.

Distributors by geographical plate are all available on the manufacturer’s website.

No delivery date has yet been announced, but production of the machines starts in May/June, so it’ll probably be back in September at best.

ABBA pinball machine: let’s go ?

Unexpected! That’s the word that sums up this machine. At least for us.

We didn’t expect a new musical pinball machine, we didn’t expect the band, we didn’t expect the visuals, and we didn’t expect it to be true either (a gentle troll from our friends at Pinball Brothers, who dropped the name of their next machine on April 1st, pretending it was a joke when in fact it was true).

And in the end, as always with this firm, it’s a success. Their machines make you want to buy them… And the fact that they’ve dared to venture into this territory with this group, breaking visual codes, musical clichés and overrated scenarios, obviously makes you want to get your hands on this machine!

For the more hesitant, be patient and test the first runs. For absolute fans of the band, go for it! You’re not taking much of a risk with this brand, which, since its takeover of Heighwey Pinball, has established itself in the pinball landscape with seriousness, rigor and passion.

Syl Vain
Syl Vain
Fan of 80s/90s pop culture, compulsive collector and supporter of "it was better before!"

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